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IPSO rejects relative’s complaint over inquest coverage

NewIPSOThe press watchdog has rejected a complaint from a woman unhappy with the way a regional news website covered her brother-in-law’s inquest.

Hannah Ratcliffe complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation after Kent Live covered an inquest into the death of the man, who had taken his own life.

Ms Ratcliffe told IPSO Kent Live’s coverage had included deeply distressing details, along with some facts about the case of which her family were previously unaware.

But IPSO found in Kent Live’s favour, noting the requirement that publication is handled sensitively in cases involving personal grief or shock does not restrict the right to report legal proceedings.

Complaining under Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock) and Clause 5 (Reporting suicide) of the Editors’ Code of Practice, Ms Ratcliffe said that her sister and the wider family were unaware that the man had injured himself before he jumped from the cliff and that reading this information in the article had caused them much distress.

She also said that it was deeply distressing to read the contents of the texts sent by the man to his family, and to have the street where he lived included in Kent Live’s story.

Kent Live expressed its sincere condolences for the complainant’s loss, but said it had simply reported what had been heard in the inquest and denied a breach of Code.

It said it was entitled to report freely on proceedings, even if this is distressing to a family, noting that the story did not give excessive detail of a suicide method.

The site added it was not excessive to include the information about how the man injured himself because it was necessary to explain how the coroner was satisfied that the man had taken his own life.

IPSO found the story was a factual report of the inquest proceedings, and that Kent Live had not published excessive detail as to a suicide method.

The complaint was not upheld, and the full adjudication can be found here.

IPSO has also rejected a separate complaint regarding Kent Live, made by Frazer Westmorland about its Real Schools Guide 2020. The full adjudication can be read here.

Other recent IPSO cases involving regional newspapers include:

Clough v Dundee Evening Telegraph

Jonathan Clough complained under Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice about a Dundee Evening Telegrpah story in which his company was named.

The story reported on the case of a council worker who had been fired for allegedly tampering with the date of an email during a tendering process, with the Evening Telegraph stating the allegations “centre” on Mr Clough’s firm.

Mr Clough said there was no need to name his company in the story and it was inaccurate to report that the allegations had centred on his business, adding it had given the misleading and false impression that his business was responsible for the alleged tampering of the email.

The Evening Telegraph responded that it did not claim that the company had tampered with the date of the email, adding it was necessary to name the company involved.

The complaint was not upheld, and the full adjudication can be read here.

Fleet v Plymouth Herald

Karen Fleet complained under Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy), Clause 9 (Reporting of crime), Clause 12 (Discrimination) and Clause 14 (Confidential sources) of the Editors’ Code of Practice about a Plymouth Herald story which detailed allegations about her behaviour around a fellow pub owner.

Ms Fleet denied she had been drunk or abusive when trying to enter the landlord’s pub, contrary to the story’s claims, and said it was inaccurate to report that she had sent homophobic abuse online – further claiming she was not given right of reply.

Denying a breach of Code, the Herald said it had screenshots of the Facebook comments which it had reported and noted Ms Fleet had not denied posting these comments.

The herald added it had tried to contact her multiple times prior to publication, providing notes of the calls it made.

The complaint was not upheld, and the full adjudication can be read here.

Bremner v The Scotsman

David Bremner complained under Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice about a Scotsman story headlined “Queen’s Speech rules out new Scottish independence referendum”.

Mr Bremner claimed it was inaccurate because the Queen’s speech made no reference to a second Scottish independence referendum or that this would be a “damaging distraction”.

The Scotsman accepted the Queen’s speech did not reference Scottish independence, saying it had relied on a Downing Street press briefing which had said that the Queen would speak about Scottish independence and specifically said “a second independence referendum next year would be a damaging distraction”.

IPSO found the Edinburgh-based daily was entitled to rely on the accuracy of this briefing.

The complaint was not upheld, and the full adjudication can be read here.